Wycliffe Musalia Mudavadi is credited with saving the country from runaway inflation and resumption of aid when he became Minister for Finance after the 1992 multiparty elections. Mudavadi was the seventh and last Vice President of Kenya – appointed three months before the 2002 General Election after Vice President George Saitoti left KANU for the Opposition.
Within KANU the soft-spoken politician came across as more refined and youthful than the older members of the party. He preferred to concentrate on his Cabinet docket and rarely held public rallies like his party colleagues.
Mudavadi’s performance in all the ministries gave him national appeal and the experience required to run Government. When he took over the Finance docket in 1993, the economy was in tatters. There was excess money circulating in the country and the Government had borrowed too much from the local market. The Government had also printed money to use for the election campaigns the previous year, causing hyperinflation. The prices of food and other essential commodities skyrocketed.
The country did not have enough money left for individual and business borrowing, precipitating a sharp rise in bank interest rates – as high as 45 per cent in some banks. Mudavadi admitted to Parliament that the Government had printed more money than the country needed during the 1992 elections. At the National Treasury, the Minister began to mop up the currency in circulation. This move won him admiration from the Opposition and the international community.
Mudavadi oversaw the privatisation of local State corporations, won back donor confidence to resume foreign aid and established a strong banking industry. He also resisted pressure to honour payments for contracts the Government had signed. He received support for this move from a former Cabinet colleague, Simeon Nyachae, who argued the Government would collapse if that money was paid.
Although his time as VP was too short for him to leave a mark, two notable things happened during his tenure. First, soon after his appointment, there was a terrorist attack at a hotel in Kikambala on the Kenyan coast. Mudavadi promptly travelled to the area to assess the situation. Second, Ugenya MP James Orengo moved a motion of no-confidence against the Government. Mudavadi defended the Government, saying there was no evidence of the claims and that it was unfair to subject Kenyans to another election. He successfully lobbied MPs to vote against the motion.
LAZARUS KIPKURUI SUMBEIYWO: Army commander-turned-peace broker
One of the watershed moments of President Daniel arap Moi’s presidency was the 1982 attempted coup d’état. Rumours about a coup attempt had started to circulate in June. Occupying the rank of Major at the time, Lazarus Kipkurui Sumbeiywo had tried unsuccessfully to verify the rumours with Director of Special Branch, James Kanyotu. On 1 August the mutiny took place. The President was at his home in Kabarak and Sumbeiywo was instructed to drive to State House Nakuru with some soldiers, guns cocked, ready to shoot anyone who tried to stop them.
Together with Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Hezekiah Oyugi, he was able to convince the reluctant President to leave his house, just in case it was ambushed or bombed. They wanted Moi to travel to the capital, but his Aide-de-Camp (ADC) advised against the idea, as two aircraft were unaccounted for at the Nanyuki Air Base. It wasn’t until the planes had been located and secured that they started for Nairobi, where Moi would address enthusiastic, cheering crowds in Rironi, 15 kilometres before reaching Nairobi.
In the aftermath of the attempted coup, Sumbeiywo would be entrusted with the responsibility of writing instructions on how to deal with arrested coup plotters. In appreciation of his efforts, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in charge of personnel at the Air Force.
He became Commander at a time when the military was going down a precipice, according to his biography; he had to introduce new regulations that restored discipline in the forces. Servicemen were not permitted to leave the forces without serving for a set period. In addition, he clamped down on officers taking allowances for work they had not done. He also put a stop to the misappropriation of funds, restored the mess hall where officers could assemble, and reinstated written and practical examinations for those seeking promotions. He also stopped the practice of soldiers who had been court-martialled challenging their cases in civilian courts and ensured that soldiers were given better quality uniforms.
-Moi Cabinets is published in two volumes by the Kenya Yearbook Editorial Board